Xiu Yang (pronounced ‘sheow yaang’) is the Chinese art of self-cultivation. For centuries the aims of xiu yang have been improved health, a long and happy life and harmony with the natural world.
When flying, the instruction for a sudden decrease in cabin pressure is to fix your own mask first, then help others, in first aid the first thing you are trained to do is check for danger to yourself before attempting to help someone else, and on the battlefield every soldier knows to use the field dressings of the injured soldier before breaking into your own.
Before we can be of use to others we have to cultivate a culture of self care, take care of yourself and then you can begin to look outward and see if there is anyone else needing care or attention.
Self care is more than an occasional visit to a spa or a pizza, it should be practiced continuously so that it becomes as natural as breathing – in fact practising breathing is one of the first things we do in yoga – deep nourishing breaths into the lungs and a full exhale to remove any toxins and waste products from the lungs and the body.
In her recent book “Xiu Yang – Self-Cultivation for a Happier, Healthier and Balanced Life” Mimi Kuo-Deemer explains how to really take care of oneself from the context of the Dao, the religious and ethical teachings of the Chinese, through yoga and qigong and suggestions of appropriate foods she sets out a daily schedule of diet, exercise and philosophy to bring the body and mind into harmony with nature.
This is exactly the same as the philosophy behind Seasonal Yoga.
In Seasonal yoga we work with the traditions of Chinese Medicine – the five elements, and the body clock – to bring the body and mind into harmony not only with the seasons but also with the time of day.
The gentle exercise that yoga and qigong provide ensures that the body maintains its functionality throughout life, and can extend the life of the body well beyond the usual boundaries of modern living.
Through yoga, breathing, mindfulness and movement we can firm up the body, loosen tight joints and ensure a clear run of energy (qi in TCM or prana in yoga terms) through the body keeping the organs nourished and vital and removing waste products efficiently and effectively.
By taking care of ourselves we can ensure we’ll still be around to take care of others for a while yet.